When I was younger I felt like a fish out of water. I would see straight couples on the TV shows and movies I watched, but I didn’t see a lot of queer couples. I’m not saying that heterosexual representation is a bad thing, I just never saw that for myself.
More specifically, I never saw myself with a man. I was confused about the way I was feeling. “Am I sick?” or “Is something wrong with me for liking girls?” were things I used to say to myself. Somehow I pinned the lack of representation on something being wrong with me.
Heteronormativity is a term hardly anyone talks about. It’s the idea that heterosexuality — otherwise known as being straight — is the default. Think about it: Have you ever seen someone come out as straight? No, because everyone just expects you to be straight.
It took me several years to realize that I did not have to be straight. With a lot of thought, I realized that liking girls was something I couldn’t change. I finally learned that it was something I should embrace rather than hide.
I believe that being straight should no longer be the default. It has very negative consequences for the queer community. It results in them feeling like an outsider, because the people they grow up watching might only be straight. I think more queer representation should be in the media so that people in the LGBTQ+ community have someone who they can maybe look up to, or just simply relate to. That will help them understand that living as themselves is an option.
According to Out.com, less than 50% of teens identify as straight, yet there is still a lack of queer representation in society. Queer youth still have to live in a heteronormative society even though there are clearly people who don’t identify as straight or cis-gender. This impacts them so much. It affected me growing up: I doubted myself so much, and tried to let myself believe I was something I knew, deep down, I was not.
It doesn’t stop there, because even though some queer youth can accept themselves as being queer, there is still some doubt. I’ve accepted myself, yet there are still thoughts that go through my head. They’ll tell me things like “Maybe I do like boys” or “Maybe I haven’t found the right boy yet.”
Some might argue, “but there are queer films out there.” Most queer films are played and written by straight people. The article “Why Are So Many Gay Romance Novels Written By Straight Women” states, “Straight characterization of queerness that is written to appeal to straight readers by straight writers is bigotry.” If the people who are writing and or acting in these films have never experienced what it’s like to be in the LGBTQ+ community, are the films really authentic? For these films to somewhat match the queer communities’ experiences, queer people should be a part of it. They have gone through some of the experiences of others in the community. Their experiences are real. That would be some good representation.
Two examples of shows that have good queer representation are “The L Word Gen Q” and “Genera+ion.” These shows were written and played by queer people. They show queer people figuring out who they are and living life. It’s authentic. It actually shows how queers act on a day-to-day basis.
Bad queer representation is in a show like “Q-force.” This show is shows stereotypes and unrealistic behavior of someone how is queer. Some stereotypes shown in the show are that gay men are more feminine and lesbian women are more masculine. Even though it’s true for some, it does not represent everyone in the community. This show allows someone who is outside of the community to maybe look at queer people differently because of poor representation.
With more good representation, queerness would be normalized. The stereotypes straight people write into queer TV and movies will be broken.
You might be saying, “We need straight representation too.” I’m not saying there should not be any representation for people who are heteronormative, but I’m saying there should be more representation for queer people since there is hardly any in media. In movies/tv-shows we already have so much straight representation. I mean that’s all I grew up on. Most shows are filled with straight representation so there would never be a lack of heteronormative representation. With more queer representation, we would be normalizing queer people in society. This would be a step into changing heteronormativity.
There can be so much fear behind coming out as queer. The thing about coming out never stops. It doesn’t just stop at family or friends. Going to a job or going out for lunch with a significant other. Since heteronormativity is the default a lot of people don’t accept people outside of that little box society has built. It can become dangerous for the queer community as people who don’t accept them express it with violence or simply words that they say.
According to liveabout.com, the average of coming out is 16 years old. It honestly does depend on where you live and if the environment you live in is safe.
If heteronormativity wasn’t the “normal” this problem in a society coming out would not be a fear. It probably wouldn’t even exist. Instead, people would just live their lives. They would be able to express themselves freely without the fear of being judged because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
As a society, we should start to normalize being something outside of the box life gives to us. It’s okay to be something that society might say is different. There are many people out there who relate to someone in the LGBTQ+ community. Heteronormativity is something the older generation constructed. Today, with new concepts and beliefs, we can make queerness the norm in society. It all starts with a simple change of mindset.